Vino Mendocino – 1

Thursday. The bus to Mendoza wasn’t too bad, though not as luxurious as previous trips as it was only semi-cama: 2+2 seats across instead of 2+1, and a decent but far from fully-flat recline. Dinner was rather late and the movies were awful! More entertaining were the electrical storms raging in the distance, lighting up the night sky. Anyway, I slept enough to be in reasonable shape when we arrived.

A short taxi ride across the very green and pretty city centre took me to my lodgings in Quinta Rufina Hostel, a cross between a guest house and a hostel, where my spacious twin room with private bathroom was only AR$50 per night. The staff were all very friendly and helpful too. After a shower I walked into the centre to have lunch and find the tourist office. I also tracked down the offices of Ampora Wine Tours and booked a tour to the Valle de Uco region for Saturday.

(That’s a story in itself. Originally I contacted a company advertising in one of the gay maps of Buenos Aires, but they were at the very top end of the market and only did packages including 5* hotels. Very helpfully, though, they put me in touch with their local agents in Mendoza, who do wine tours, but only offer an individual service and for just me, would have charged about US$225 for a day. In their turn they were very helpful and pointed me at Ampora, still at the upper end but offering small group tours for around US$100 including lunch – see next blog entry!)

The tourist office sorted me out with ideas for the afternoon and for the Friday. In the afternoon I took a local bus into the suburb of Godoy Cruz to the bodega of Escorihuela Gascón. Graham and I had tried their excellent Malbec at La Choza with our anniversary dinner. Sadly they weren’t offering tours due to redevelopment work in the cellars, but I did get to taste two of their wines: a reasonable Viognier 2006 and a very good Syrah 2004. Because nobody can pronounce Escorihuela, their export label is Candela and I now have details of their UK importers. The bodega was close enough to the centre of the city to stroll back in about 20 minutes.

In the evening it rained. And rained and rained, torrentially, until about 3am. I dodged my way to the vines of mendoza, a very slick bar / wine club / tour operator outfit, and very friendly with it. They offer ‘flights’ of wines to taste, and for the price of a decent bottle of Malbec (AR$35) I tried five different wines, talked through them by the lovely Javier, my barman. Highlights were Taymente 2004 and Enrique Foster Reserva 2003.

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Luckily for me the rain had stopped by Friday morning. Another suburban bus took me on a longer journey (about 35 minutes) to the heart of Maipú, one of two satellite towns which are the main central-Mendoza wine producers. I hired a bike and pedalled off along the relatively quiet roads, between vineyards, olive groves and orchards, with the sun beating down on my neck. I visited:

Bodega La Rural
A huge and very traditional bodega, with a long history and an interesting collection of winemaking equipment. Unfortunately it’s also one of the main stops for coach tours and my arrival coincided with that of a group from a conference of ‘Avon ladies’ or the local equivalent! So not the most intimate of tours, but winemaking was in full almost-industrial swing, so plenty to see and watch. The tasting was of a red and a white made specially for sale to visitors, neither very inspiring.
Historia y Sabores
A small-scale producer of conserves of all kinds using local ingredients. I bought a jar of strawberry jam with black pepper for Jeannette.
Almacén del Sur
A beautiful setting but the special set lunch for bikesandwines customers was slightly disappointing at the price. An over-salted brochette of lamb and vegetables, with nice fat home-made chips. Improved by the glass of Lurton Malbec / Bonarda I bought!
Bodega Carinae
A tiny boutique bodega with some very old wines. To improve the richness of their wines they harvest very late, so weren’t yet making wine. This is risky since hail can be a problem and could destroy the crop. I was given an informative private tour – in Spanish – followed by a tasting of three of their wines. The El Galgo Gran Reserva 2004 was excellent, but with a production of only 4500 bottles is likely to be hard to find! Like several of the best Malbecs I tasted, it was quite heavily oaked, and although drinking well already it would benefit from a few years of cellaring.
Tempus Alba
A modern, sexy, high-tech bodega. Another miss on the tour front: their guide was off sick. But there were good views of the winemaking in action and into the cellar, and a lovely tasting room where for a small fee I tasted their excellent wines including a very fruity Tempranillo. I suspect from the styling that they’re likely to be pricey, though.

Sadly I then only had time to cycle back to the bike hire shop before the 6pm deadline. It was a great way to visit the area!

Dinner was a slightly disappointing bife outside a rather nice parilla near the city centre – livened, as for lunch, by an excellent Malbec! 🙂

2 Comments »

  1. Graham Said,

    April 5, 2007 @ 9:08 am

    Sounds great. Were you able to cycle back without too much wobble!?

  2. Michael Said,

    April 5, 2007 @ 12:47 pm

    Yes, not too much wobble! A bit of a sore bum from the not-very-good saddle, though.

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